Walker Brigade / If Only

Walker Brigade

If Only (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/if-only

Having secured the reputation as a sizzling hot live act, Walker Brigade will finally be releasing their anxiously-anticipated first full-length album. Available May 27th, “If Only” includes offerings from most of the Los Angeles band’s 2017 mini-album, “Animal Therapy,” plus digital download singles previously issued by the Big Stir label, as well as new material and bonus tracks. 

Consisting of vocalists and guitarists Tracy Walker and Jeff Charreaux, bassist Mark Fletcher and drummer Craig Tykra, Walker Brigade produces an immensely powerful sound that blends artsy punk incentives with jarring pop rock maneuvers. Brandishing both ability and attitude, the band thrives on the kind of paranormal rapport found in uniquely great groups.

Piloted by a feral intensity, “If Only” is a noisy but wonderously melodic affair, with songs such as “No,” “Tower,” “Fallout,” “Disease” and “Choker”  zoning in on Walker Brigade’s flair for fusing nail-biting tempos and expressions with user-friendly undercurrents. Split somewhere between quirky roots rock and hook-happy garage punk, the cocky swagger of “V.D. Doll” and the loose-limbed rumble of “Fancy Boots” plug in as further winners on the album, along with the properly titled “Shake Shimmy,” which hustles and bustles to a hip-grinding beat. 

Awash with shifting rhythms, pinching breaks and tantalizing twists and turns as a whole, “If Only” discharges one surprise after another. But a cover of “I’m Tired” – which was initially sung by Madeline Kahn in the  1974 box office blockbuster “Blazing Saddles” – testifies to be an especially unexpected treat. Tracy’s vocal performance on the tart and raunchy cabaret corker is absolutely phenomenal, as her phrasing, range and passion is stretched to extremes.

A rendition of Wire’s kinetic “Sand In My Joints” also appears on “If Only,” while the gig wraps up with a number not listed on the set. Slyly coined, “Rock And Roll Toilet” makes the Sex Pistol seem tame by comparison. Devised of two  grungy chords, a hoarse growl and super trashy drumming, the hidden cut is the real thing – just like Walker Brigade. Raw, authentic and pulsing with mind-exploding singing and playing, “If Only” may have been worth the wait, but let’s hope the band’s next album arrives sooner than later! 

All Of Thus

All Of Thus

All Of Thus (Gear Fab)

https://guerssenrecords.bandcamp.com/album/all-of-thus

If you have never heard of All Of Thus before, you are not alone. Based in Victor, New York, the band cut just one album during their stint, which did not receive a speck of commercial promotion or attention. Simply dubbed “All Of Thus,” the album was released in 1968 on the Century label. Only 265 copies of the album were pressed, and ultimately gained the status of a serious collector’s item. Now revived onto compact disc, the rare pearl further offers the history of All Of Thus, authored by Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine. 

Although the jacket sleeve of “All Of Thus” apes “Meet The Beatles” in a roundabout way, the band was a far cry from Fab Four imitators. Comprised of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist John Johnston, bassist and vocalist Don Corbit, keyboardist and vocalist Jerry  Huekensfield and drummer Barry Dagleish, All Of Thus exposed a preference for the psychedelic folk rock philosophy of The Byrds and early Love, filtered through a raggedy garage-pop edge. Raw and natural energy, as opposed to style and technique, furnishes “All Of Thus” with an enjoyable charm and innocence. The members of All Of Thus were still in high school when the album was recorded, and their youthful enthusiasm is contagious.

Jingly jangly applications are placed at a premium on the melodic kick of “She Think She Knows,” as well as “Artifical Lies,” which is executed at a bit of a slower meter and adds washes of whirring organ drills and social commentary to the track. Then there’s a cover of Pete Seeger’sBells Of Rhymney,” featuring a different arrangement than the initial version, not to mention a new set of lyrics. In the end, however, the giddy rendition mirrors the noted take by The Byrds, with its escalating and hypnotic harmonies that carry a hymn-like timbre.  

Routed by a rebellious sneer, hippy dippy prose and rolling and tumbling piano excursions, the gripping “Rely” is pricked with a stinging acid-tinted guitar solo, and “Bye Bye Baby” is a dance floor friendly nugget, marked by shaking grooves, shouting vocals and herky jerky riffs. A punchy garage rock vibe fuels the weirdly hooky “Last Night,” and the moody atmospherics of “Kind Of A Dream” produces a strong Zombies influence. Speaking of The Zombies, “All Of Thus” contains a brash and wild remake of the British band’s “It’s All Right With Me,” that includes some real cool surf rock drumming in the mix. A haunting interpretation of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’sWalk On By” strolls in as another inspired interpretation tucked on the album. 

Catchy singing, projecting a sense of power and confidence, chaperoned by unusual tempos and  instrumentation, reward  “All Of Thus” with an organic uniqueness to be appreciated and celebrated. 

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men / Heart Inside Your Head

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men

Heart Inside Your Head (JEM)

https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/

Make note of May 20th, because that’s the day Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men’s eagerly awaited sophomore album, “Heart Inside Your Head” will be issued. 

Composed of Nick Piunti on lead vocals, guitars and synthesizer, Jeff Daksiewicz on electric guitar, Kevin Darnall on piano, organ and synthesizer, Jeff Hupp on bass and Ron Vensko on drums, the widely championed Detroit, Michigan band is caught operating at the pinnacle of their panache on this great album. 

All ten songs on “Heart Inside Your Head” were written by Nick, citing the unsettling events of the past couple of years as the motivating factor behind the collection.

Fashioned of direct and perceptive lyrics, a sense of self-evalutation tends to steer these ear-clasping numbers. Possessing a raspy and robust tenor that could pass as the power popping cousin of Bryan Adams, Nick delivers the verse with style and conviction, while The Complicated Men exercise exemplary chemistry by maintaining a taut and concentrated hold throughout the proceedings.

Bounding full steam.ahead with strapping rhythms, penetrating chords and windswept harmonies, “My Mind (Plays Tricks On Me)” recalls the melodic force and gravity of The Who, where “Slave To It” rolls to a captivating groove, and “I Want Everything” entails a slower and delicate tempo, ribbed with splashes of distortion and jangle.

Ruled by a bouncy beat, chiming guitars and lively vocals, “Trying Too Hard” checks in as the criterion of classic power pop, the appropriately christened “Hopes Up” sparkles and swaggers with optimism, and “Nothing New” is a pretty and precious ballad.

The album also includes two songs that were paired as a single release last summer. There’s the rocking title track, which is shaped of an absorbing arrangement, cooking hooks and zingy breaks, and the comparably energetic “One Of The Boyz” that features a giant sing-a-long chorus impossible to ignore. 

By weaving together strands of foot stomping arena rock with liberal dosages of customary pop ingredients, Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men produce gold spinning tunes that get straight to the point. Inspiring and refreshing, “Heart Inside Your Head” is ideal therapy for these uncertain times. 

Simon Love / “I Love Everybody In The Whole Wode World (Except You)” and “Me and You.”

Simon Love

I Love Everybody In The Whole Wide World (Except You)/Me And You (Tapete)

https://simon-love.bandcamp.com/album/love-sex-and-death-etc

Simon Love has been mighty busy these past couple of decades, and while doing so, has crafted a slew of great music. From 2000 to 2011, the Welsh singer/songwriter fronted The Loves, ensued by a stint with The Knickers. Simon eventually decided to go it alone, and his third solo album, “Love, Sex, Death etc,” is slated to be issued the eighth of April. Until the disc is available, here’s a look at two singles that have already been released from the forthcoming package.

Spitting bullets at an obviously despised individual, “I Love Everybody In The Whole Wide World (Except You)” is a potent production, conducted by impassioned vocals combining the salty nasal-pitched whine of Ray Davies with the rootsy drawl of Leon Russell. Corking piano chords, sweeping hooks and a nifty sing-along and bob your head type chorus are also responsible for propelling the track. 

Busting at the buttons with rounds of glorious melodies, “Me And You” sails in as a neatly-chiseled pop pleasure, bouncing and swinging to a display of brass orchestration, fetching licks, heavenly harmonies and hale and hardy drumming. Simon’s lilting vocals – caught somewhere between shades of The Monkees and Teenage Fan Club – top the tune with a suitable shimmer and polish. As an additional sweetner, “Me And You” is a valentine to Simon’s wife.

If these songs are any indication of what the rest of the material on “Love, Sex And Death etc” offers, a very enjoyable album is definitely to be had. 

Anton Barbeau / Power Pop!!!

Anton Barbeau

Power Pop!!! (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/power-pop

According to the definition printed on the back sleeve of Anton Barbeau’s latest album, power pop is “a guitar-based form of self-limiting pop music created primarily by/for unrequited men who wish The Beatles had never invited Dylan up to their hotel room.” And while Anton has certainly fathered a fair share of tunes grounded in the genre, he has always avoided restricting himself to a solitary style. So, therefore, calling the album “Power Pop!!!” Is merely a stroke of the singer, songwriter and multi-faceted instrumentalist’s sardonic wit. 

After thirty-plus years of making music and recording an equal amount of discs to match, Anton – who originally comes from Sacramento, California but currently lives in Berlin, Germany – still has plenty of petrol to spare. In fact, “Power Pop!!!” is possibly the musical mad scientist’s best album to date, as the collection seamlessly reinforces his remarkable shapeshifting techniques for composing and playing strangely addictive songs.

The first cut on the album, “Entrez-Vous Dans Les Maisons” punches in at just a little over a minute in length and is a piano instrumental featuring an ominous church type timbre. Then there’s “The Sound” that namechecks The Byrds, The Beatles and XTC, and climaxes to a squall of fizzy psychedelic loopings. Fired by a super speedy clip, “Hillbilly Village” blows in as a demented country-salted ditty, and “Free” is a tight and bright trance-inducing hip hop/electro-pop number. 

On the vigorous title track of the album, Anton proclaims, “Put down your guns, you culture cops, there ain’t no crime like power pop” and “the kids get high on power pop,” where “Running On The Edge Of The Knife” is an action-packed rocker, smirking with mischief and menace. A tribute to one of Anton’s main inspirations, “Julian Cope” dials in as wiggy pop piece, and the swift and bubbly jitters of “Never Crying Wolf Boy” five-fingers a couple of kicks and tricks from The Cars.

The ghost of Buddy Holly and a lady who doesn’t realize she is a cartoon character are referenced on “The Drugs,” which offers some sweet and gentle piano work and baroque pop orchestration before turning a corner, and letting loose a barking rap admirably emulative of Bob Dylan. On a far more traditional plane, “Whisper In The Wind” and “Rain, Rain” are lovely synth pop sentiments, glowing with hypnotic hooks, feathery harmonies and catchy and insistent rhythms. 

Anton’s British-inflected vocals and phrasing – reflecting a melding of John Lennon, David Bowie and of course Julian Cope – are perfectly tailored for the peculiar poetry and inventive sonic operations he so enthusiastically binges on. Cloaked in novel arrangements, off-center melodies and wonky ruffles, “Power Pop!!!” presents a wealth of interesting and exhilarating moves celebrating various art rock fashions, rather than the tongue-in-cheek moniker of the album. Good for Anton, forever following his muse and unraveling riches in the process. 

Terry Carolan / Flights Of Fancy

Terry Carolan

Flights Of Fancy (Counterfeit)

http://www.terrycarolan.com

Terry Carolan’sFlights Of Fancy” provides all the delectable elements we have come to expect from the respected singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has been a staple of the pop rock circuit for more than forty years. Having acquired recognition with a number of different bands, including Just Boys, The Pin Ups, True Hearts, New Movies, Blue Cartoon and Heirs Of Fortune, Terry further cuts the mustard as a solo artist as this mighty fine album assuredly attests.

Flashing the signage of a quintessential frontman, Terry’s vocals are amiable and robust, emoting his smoothly-scribed songs with an intimacy and directness spurring response to both the words and the music. Additionally pronounced by a polish and a shine, his radio-friendly pipes resemble a blending  of Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren and Allan Clarke of The Hollies

A towering vocal performance, unified with a symphonic sheen represents “Solo Rita,” and a lightly-buttered psychedelic air cushions “The Muse,” which strolls and swirls to a gorgeous display of dreamy melodies and visually-enhanced lyrics. Containing earnest dialogue regarding the madness and confusion consuming life today, “The World Keeps Turning” clicks in as a bouncy pop rocker, rippling and coiling with ringing chords, tight drumming, choice hooks and an electrifying break. 

Terry’s first-class piano skills are acutely accented on the measured cadence and haunting contours of “The Box,” as well as the sweetened punch of “Love,” and the downright dynamic “Fade,” a skin-prickling power ballad expressing sorrow at challenging changes afoot, but accepting these changes and courageously forging onward. 

The desire for a happier time and place is communicated on the bright and bonny “I’ll Go Home (Elsyian Fields),” where “Easter ’83” steps in a  twitchy and tuneful guitar instrumental. Gushing with color and wonder, “A Holiday For You” is cemented by soothing rhythms and textures, breathtaking harmonies, bracing Beatles-Badfinger six-string samplings and a whirling progressive pop rock mini-jam. 

Sitting high on the hill as a bold piece of work, “Flights Of Fancy” fuses innovation, purity, beauty and spirited verse into a symmetrical set of songs dictated by moderate tempos. Neither too fast or too slow, these sophisticated and superior songs should also be lauded for their sonic quality. Hardly a flight of fancy, the album totally summarizes Terry’s genius for creating top-grade pop rock on every level imaginable. 

Amoeba Teen

Amoeba Teen

Amoeba Teen (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/amoeba-teen

If you liked Amoeba Teen’s previous album – “Medium Wave” which was released three years ago – you will love their latest venture. Simply titled “Amoeba Teen,” the ten-track disc surveys the band encapsulating the joys and wonders of classic pop rock, while dispensing their own exciting tones and colors onto the palette. 

Consisting of lead singers and guitarists Mark Britton and Mike Turner, bassist Simon Muttitt and drummer Carl Bayliss, the group hails from Stourbridge, England, where “Amoeba Teen” was recorded at Claptrap Studios. 

To begin with, these lads can really carry a tune, as their vocals radiate a triple shot of power, energy and charisma. Backed by accomplished harmonies –  extending from blissful to blistering – every song on “Amoeba Teen” not only features great singing, but premium instrumental performances. Motivated and imaginative, the band never ceases to freckle their fare with thrilling zigs and zags. 

Tapped as the first single from the album, “January” pins traditional country factors to big and bright pop hooks, resulting in a sparkly slice of twang and jangle. Fueled by a cocky sneer and a pounding beat, “Barlight Crawl” reprises the glitter rock of acts such as The Sweet and T. Rex, and although “Mainstream” includes similar qualities, funky horns and a blush of boogie are added to the program. 

Designed to shake walls and shatter glass, the heavy and intense “King Of The Cut” is notably modeled after the piercing guitar workouts and spiralling rhythms of Crazy Horse. Remnants of Raspberries and Jellyfish can be heard on the perky charm of “Melody For You,” as well as the absolutely ravishing “A Good Reason Why,” which focuses upon a heart-tugging blend of breathtaking vocals, celestial atmospherics, and elegant piano presentations. 

A tonic cocktail of herky jerky tempos,  crashing guitars, pointed melodies and staggering breaks is served on the modernized new wave sensibilities of “Just Not That Into You,” and “Putting The Kids Through College” strolls along at a rather smooth and leisurely pace that kind of wanders into jazzy Steely Dan territory. 

Eclectic in all the right ways, “Amoeba Teen” expertly exceeds the band’s many influences, making for a spectacular collection of era-defying pop rock sounds and expressions. 

Allan Kaplon / Notes On A Napkin

Allan Kaplon

Notes On A Napkin

https://allankaplon.bandcamp.com/album/notes-on-a-napkin

Here on Allan Kaplon’s most recent album, Notes On A Napkin, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based singer, songwriter and guitarist is joined by a cast of acclaimed individuals from the alternative music community. 

There’s Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel from The Spongetones, Pop Co-Op’s Stacy Carson, The Amazing Elena Rogers, Rick Blackwell, Jason Atkins, Russ Bettenbaugh, Eric Lovell, James Brock, Gigi Dover and Deanna Campbell. To top it off, Dan Pavelich of The Click Beetles, creator of the Just Say Uncle cartoon and editor of this spiffy publication, designed the striking art work on the album. 

While Allan’s deep and husky burr is more inclined to be associated with pedal steel guitars, dobros and mandolins than the mercurial pop rock hues and cues gracing Notes On A Napkin, his rustic vocals supply an original and appealing slant to the material. 

The title track of the album thrums to an edgy intensity, complemented by slinky and snarling guitar licks. Local Bus Station starts out draped in quirky reggae regalia, then abruptly escalates into a racing power-popping rocker. Also slapped on the rocking side of the coin is Flesh And Blood, a swinging neo- boogie number consisting of stabbing hooks, quicksilver rhythms, a burly backbeat and ripped riffs. In addition, there is  O’Henry’s Late Night Run, which is laced with a choppy funk bent. 

Festive orchestration containing dizzy squiggles and sound effects frame One Big Parade, and Every Single Day checks in as a crisp and catchy slice of  mid-tempo folk pop sporting a heartfelt sentiment.  Not surprisingly, there are a couple of country-styled songs on the album, specifically the swooning Slow Down Cowboy and Wonder Where The Angels Are, a bright and becoming gem charted of stirring melodies and jangling guitars.

Further marked by blustery harmonies, inspiring arrangements, snappy keyboard fills and sharp storytelling, Notes On A Napkin is an all-around pleasure. Prepared to be entertained and enlightened!  

Big Boy Pete / The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete, 1966-1979, Volume 2

Big Boy Pete

The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete, 1966-1979, Volume 2 (Mono-Tone)

Big Boy Pete (nee Peter Miller) boasts quite an impressive pedigree. As lead guitarist of Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, the Norwich, England native enjoyed a  run of success during the initial phase of the British Invasion. 

Upon exiting the band in 1965, Peter became Big Boy Pete and received a bit of airplay in the UK with Baby I’ve Got News For You and Cold Turkey. John Lennon reportedly praised the latter single, so it’s probably no coincidence he called a song of his own Cold Turkey two years after Big Boy Pete’s forty-five  arrived. On a related note, Big Boy Pete heard through the grapevine The Beatles were interested in signing him to their Apple label, which sadly never occurred.

Those assuming Baby I’ve Got News For You and Cold Turkey were the only items Big Boy Pete ever recorded, were  pleasantly surprised a couple of decades down the pike when discovering he had tons of material languishing in the bin. A good amount of these tapes were reissued as album-length packages, rendering the now-San Francisco resident into a cult figure. 

Big Boy Pete proceeds to plumb the archives, and has recently released The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete 1966-1979 Volume 2.  Like its predecessor – The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete 1965-1977 Volume 1 – the collection is available on vinyl and is bolstered by printed lyrics and a goofy profile of Big Boy Pete authored by the man himself. 

Riddled with the buzz of a tottering sitar,  Strontium Ninety Nel sets the album in mettle motion to a punchy kaleidoscopic pulse, while the twinkling glimmer of Peter Pan and the orchestral beauty of Summerland detail the more delicate aspects of psychedelia. Also filed in this category is Convercircles, which sweeps and sways with taffy-stretching melodies and abstract imagery. Conducted by a taunting sneer based somewhere in the orbit of Bob Dylan and Sky Saxon, Nothingness Minus The Fun throbs insistently with rubbery riffs producing a bizarre breed of country folk rock. 

Classic rockabilly is the chosen style on the wickedly catchy Bad Girl, and then there’s The King Of Berentania, that crosses reggae aspirations with new wave perspectives, before transforming into a sea shanty. An inspired Johnny Cash imitation is unveiled on the gruff and gravelly Burnt Out, menacing surf and spy rhythms crop up on the hard-edged jolt of Freeloader and Flying Solo soars forth to a powered pitch centered around a keen arrangement, biting fuzz guitars and commanding hooks. 

Although Big Boy Pete keeps busy resurrecting material from yore, by no means does he live in the past. Apart from operating The Audio Institute of America in San Francisco, he continues to write and record original music. Those with an ear for a true blue rock and roll attitude that not only yields cool sounds, but adds wit, humor and surrealism to the show, will wear the grooves out of The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete 1966-1979,Volume 2, and then tune into his many other treasures, if they are not already acquainted with his work.

Red River Dream / Silver Ship – Somewhere At The Edge Of Time

Apparently a one-shot project, Red River Dream stars prestigious players from Chicago’s contemporary psychedelic pop scene. Put together by Constantine Hastalis, the group additionally features Matt Smalligan and members of Secret Colours, Lucille Furs, Triptides, Faux Co. and Soft Candy. Both sides of Red River Dream’s single were authored by Constantine, which marries airy-fairy lyrics to an intoxicating acid folk rock foundation. 

Haunting vocals, shimmering fuzz guitars and a ghostly chorus define “Silver Ship” before twirling organ breaks worthy of The Doors and Iron Butterfly enter the picture. As a fitting flourish, a wash of wah-wah riffs close the track. Drifting along to a brooding lick, “Somewhere At The Edge Of Time” further involves billowy melodies, lonely harmonies, simple but potent drumming and a splash of stinging Jefferson Airplane-styled six-string handiwork. 

It’s a shame “Silver Ship”/”Somewhere At The Edge Of Time” is purported to be Red River Dream’s sole effort, as these songs rank right up there with the best head music and will certainly leave listeners craving for more.